Health Care

Nurses Union Launches Campaign Against Steward

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Ohio  Nurses Association says it’s raising red flags about Steward Health Care so that “community residents get the care they need in light of the company’s greedy, hasty decision” to close Northside Regional Medical Center.

In a news release issued this morning, the union, which represents 188 nurses at Northside, said it will work with its pension fund trustee network in New York and California to flag its concerns of financial risks stemming from Steward’s work “as trustees consider future investments.” In addition, the union vowed to explore any “legal possibilities” to help maintain basic, essential health care services for Youngstown residents, the release states.

Bargaining continues between the union and hospital management regarding severance packages when Northside closes on Sept. 20, the union said.

Next week, union representatives will share information with staff and community members outside Steward health care centers in the area. The goal is to raise awareness of Steward’s “bad habits,” the release states, including “big-footing community hospitals with promises of investment and change, only to close them and prevent competing medical facilities from coming in to serve the public.”

The union said it also is launching an ad campaign to promote its message.

In a letter to Northside employees last month, Linda Grass, interim president of Northside Regional Medical Center, said that despite continued investment, Northside “remains significantly underutilized – as it has been for many years.” As patient visits increase at other hospitals in the area, Northside’s have decreased 71% over the last decade, leaving 80% of beds empty nightly, she wrote.

On Aug. 16, union representatives joined 11 nurses from Northside, as well as elected officials, to hold a press conference on the hospital’s front lawn. Laurie Hornberger, registered nurse at Northside and president of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, argued that the elimination of services contributed to patient reductions at the hospital. The cutbacks included the closure of three units, elimination of outpatients receiving blood transfusions, reduced pharmacy hours and the auxiliary staff that provide help for the nurses, and increased the patient-to-staff ratio, she said.

The closing of Northside also eliminates obstetric services to the community.

“Steward’s decision to close is a disservice to the community,” Hornberger said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.